Amendment XXVII: Ass-Whippin’

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, April 13, 2009 22:39 EDT
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This story is a few days old, and I forget why I’ve been sitting on it, because the more I think about it, the more hilarious it gets. (Hat tip.) Perhaps it’s the eternal problem of having to mock that which self-satirizes.

Hoekstra last week introduced a bill in the House to amend the U.S. Constitution to permanently “enshrine” in American society an inviolable set of parents’ rights. The bill had 70 co-sponsors, all Republicans, including Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Minority Leader John A. Boehner.

The main rights in question are the right to beat your kid, to tell your kid to shut the fuck up, and to dictate the terms of reality to your kid.

While a treaty that seeks to protect children may sound innocuous, its opponents, such as Michael Farris, the Christian conservative founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, see in it a dystopian future in which “Parents would no longer be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children”; “A child’s ‘right to be heard’ would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed”; and “Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only have the authority to give their children advice about religion,” as he puts it on his website parentalrights.org

You can sort of sympathize with their position. What would wingnuttery be without the constant fear that you personally are weak that can only be quieted by bullying someone else? If god didn’t want children to be here so adults with major issues could take those issues out on children, he wouldn’t have made children so small and vulnerable. Leave it to a bunch of pansy-ass liberals, feminists out for your balls, and the black helicopter movement of wingnut emasculation to take that god-given right from you. Indeed, according to Politico, these are exactly the villains that the wingnuts are freaking out over.

The bill, said Hoekstra, is intended to stem the “slow erosion” of parents’ rights and to circumvent the effects of a United Nations treaty he believes “clearly undermines parental rights in the United States.”

The treaty to which he refers is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 20-year-old document signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 but never ratified. The treaty sets international standards for government obligations to children in areas that range from protection from abuse and exploitation to ensuring a child’s right to free expression……

The Convention on the Rights of the Child emerged from relative obscurity most recently when, during the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama replied to a question about the treaty by saying he found it “embarrassing” that the United States stood with Somalia – the only other U.N. member that has not ratified the treaty — and promised to review it as president, and then again in the confirmation hearing for Ambassador Susan Rice, when Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) pressed the then-nominee on the treaty’s status.

Like they said in the intro, it’s got everything a wingnut could want—the U.N., feminist politicians, the fear that the rest of the world is a dark, scary place that shouldn’t even be contemplated, the possibility that you may have to reconsider your bullying attitudes towards others—but what I like most of all is not how mean it is, but how small it is. The Constitution is full of amendments on things like equal protection, suffrage, freedom of speech and now….the freedom to tar someone’s backside instead of sending them to their room? I realize that children can be very frustrating, and I’m the first to say that the domestic sphere is as important as the public one in terms of political relevance, because it’s such an important part of everyone’s life. But this stretches my commitment to that belief.

It’s obvious that the people this move is supposed to pander to have small, mean, narrow lives above and beyond anything I could have imagined. I also cannot fathom how self-centered you have to be to think that children’s rights would have anything to do with you, unless you are a straight-up child abuser, which I suppose many of the wingnuts in question are. (If you romanticize making a kid cut their own switch so you can beat them with it, you might be a child abuser.) Already, parents have limited rights when they come into conflict with children’s rights—if you want to lock a child in a closet and starve her until she admits that she loves Jesus, you’re already on the wrong side of the law, U.N. or no. Like Stephen, I doubt a reasonable amount of telling your kids what to do will always be safe. The reason kids need rights is some parents don’t know the difference between trying to offer guidance and instruction and trying to break someone’s spirit. I accept that the line can be hard to draw, especially when you’re locked in the middle of a battle with a willful kid. Which is exactly why these sorts of treaties that are hashed out through levels of debate and consensus-seeking that would break mere mortals, can be so useful.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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